WASHINGTON (CN) – Journalists say the U.S. Navy refuses to release documents about a 1964 auto accident in which then-Lt. John McCain was injured along with another man, outside the main gate of the Norfolk Navy Base. The Navy refuses to release the records to the National Security News Service, says the suit, because “the Navy contended that the records could only have historical value and could not become a breaking news story.”
The news service says it is working on a story about McCain for Vanity Fair magazine, “including an examination of his conduct in Norfolk and Portsmouth in the 1960s. Despite Senator McCain’s prior 23 years of service as a Naval officer, the Navy has only released general summaries of his military career,” the federal FOIA complaint states.
It continues: “Plaintiffs and Vanity Fair have developed from first-hand sources information indicating that Lt. McCain was involved in an automobile accident on Hampton Boulevard outside the main gate of the Naval Base at Norfolk, VA in July 1964. Plaintiffs’ investigation has disclosed that responding civilian law enforcement officers recall the accident, that another person was injured, and that a Naval officer dispatched a messenger to take a change of clothing to Lt. McCain at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. Plaintiffs have also obtained documents showing that law enforcement officers were ordered back to the accident scene to retrieve personal physical effects. The Navy has never publicly acknowledged this information.
“The fact of assignment to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, as to any Navy hospital, is a public record not protected by FOIA law or regulations.” Nonetheless, plaintiffs say, the Navy refuses to release the documents, which it has located, on the absurd claim that they “could only have historical value and could not become a breaking news story.”
The news service and its reporter Christopher Law want to see “releasable Navy records listing assignments of Navy personnel to Portsmouth Naval Hospital in 1964.”
They are represented by Mark Nagle with Troutman Sanders.